It was the early 70’s when I first proclaimed my pride in being a woman. I was riding in the back of my grandfather’s truck packed full of siblings and cousins. We were kareening down the Big Horn mountains unfettered by seatbelts. The sun burned our upturned chap faces. Sunscreen? Skin cancer? What’s that? We were free, rarely supervised and exuberant about not being a stinky boy. We were scream singing the lyrics to Helen Reddy’s song, “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar…” as my grandfather swung around each switchback. Did I mention he had on an eye patch because of a previous ranch accident. Yes! We were Wyoming women living life on the edge. Literally, on each corner we looked down to our potential death. As young women on the brink of finding our identity, we knew every word to that song. But it was many years before we understood the weight of those lyrics.
This year, Wyoming has declared 2019 “The Year of the Woman”. Thus celebrating the Equality State’s accomplishment 150 years ago when Wyoming was the first state to include women voters. There are many spirited women who have raised their voices and defied great odds in order to be heard above the Wyoming wind. Women such as Ester Morris, Amalia Post and Jackson’s own Petticoat government helped earn Wyoming’s reputation as being “The Equality State. In 1920, the women of Jackson decided it was time to clean up the town. The streets were a muddy mess, and there was no place to dispose of garage. Five strong willed civic minded women decided to run for town council. All five won by a landslide.
In our western culture, women still are revered. Many businesses in Jackson could not survive without the dedication and skills of the women on staff. Dave Hansen employs five women river guides. These women are masters of reading the river, rowing the twisted currents and providing a safe outdoor experience for their clientele.
Dave Hansen’s River guides:
Karen Baptiste is from Eastchester, NY. She started coming to Jackson at age 5 and it was love at first sight. She was a true young naturalist. The wildflowers, mountains, rivers and lakes made such an impression, she promised she would return. She fulfilled this dream after graduating from college. Wyoming was a challenge and she was up for it! Wyoming has pushed her beyond her comfort level of limitations. She is grateful that Wyoming helped her discover what she is made of. Jackson can at times seem unforgiving, but for those can make it work the rewards are numerous.
Mckenzie Myer is from Falmouth, Maine. Mckenzie always felt the pull of wide open spaces and the mountains. She followed her heart to a ranch in Northeast Wyoming where she “cowboyed up” to Wyoming life. Wyoming is where she feels like she most belongs. She has learned the importance of stepping out of her comfort zone. All of her life experiences in Wyoming have lead to personal growth and important life lessons. Top of her list is becoming a raft guide. Her greatest lesson learned is – “Sometimes you are going to mess up, but you can’t let that get in the way of life. You just have to get back on the ‘oars’ and try again!”
Lily Vosmus is from Brunswick, Maine. Lily left Maine in 2012 looking for adventure. She was drawn to the ruggedness and rawness of the Tetons. The local attitude of living life to the fullest kept her centered her in Jackson. In a short time she became a Middle School Math Teacher, married to her long time sweetheart and now a mother to a darling baby boy, Finn. The hard working mindset of born and bred Wyomingites appealed to her values. In her words, “Being around like minded people has brought me joy, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of connectedness. Wyoming has given me a home!”
Sam Strauss is from South Lyon, Michigan- Sam was drawn to Wyoming because of the National Parks and wildlife. She wanted to teach others about the parks incredible wildlife. She loves to explore our ecosystems, snowshoe and backpack. Everyday down the river is an adventure!
Veronica Paulsen is from Tiburon, CA. – Veronica has a skiing heart. She came to Jackson to fulfill her love of skiing and ended up finding a tight knit community as well as fellow outdoor lovers. She has made life long friends and has learned challenging skills that test her limits.- such a being a rafting guide.
Wyoming has the power to breath fresh air into the hearts of the many who seek adventure, and a thirst for the west. Welcome home!